Cybersquatting statistics reflect concern over gTLDs, say lawyers


The rising number of domain name disputes at WIPO reflects concerns over the threat of cybersquatting under the new gTLD programme, according to lawyers.

In August, legal publisher Sweet & Maxwell published data showing cybersquatting disputes at WIPO had hit a record high. In the 12 months to July 2012 companies filed 2,944 complaints, representing a 6 percent increase from July 2011. 

The majority of cybersquatting disputes WIPO handles fall under the UDRP, which is used for the existing 22 gTLDs such as .com and will be used for new gTLDs. But it also oversees clashes over domains representing countries, such as .au (Australia). 

While the data cover all the disputes WIPO handled in the 12-month period, separate data published by WIPO earlier this year showed a record number of UDRP complaints in 2011. In that year it handled 2,764 cases, up 2.5 percent from 2010. 

WIPO is the leading UDRP provider, ahead of the National Arbitration Forum (NAF) in the US. 

David Bernstein, partner at Debevoise & Plimpton in New York, who is a panellist at WIPO and the NAF, said some of his clients are concerned about a potential “explosion” of cybersquatting in the new gTLDs.

“The data show the efforts to get some useful precedents now and to clean up the domain name marketplace before all these new gTLDs start to come online.”

His sentiments were echoed by John Olsen, partner at Edwards Wilman in London, who said the squatters will be “hovering” once the domains are live on the Internet. 

ICANN will implement a Trademark Clearinghouse and add another dispute mechanism called the Uniform Rapid Suspension Policy in an attempt to deter cybersquatting. The first new gTLDs are expected to go live in late 2013. 

Olsen added that large brands’ online profits are increasing, and they are therefore “taking the defence of their domain names much more seriously”. 

Pointing to a third reason, Bernstein said the rise in filings reflected an increasing confidence in the UDRP system “given its unparalleled success during the past dozen years and the transparency of the decisions, which provide great predictability in the results”.

He added that Francis Gurry, director general at WIPO, and the organisation itself are perceived as the “most objective, unbiased stewards of the UDRP process”. He said WIPO has maintained a “leading role in corresponding with ICANN about potential problems in the UDRP”. 

At the time of writing, WIPO has handled 2,022 disputes in 2012.

This article was first published on 14 September 2012 in World IP Review

cybersquatting, Trademark Clearinghouse, gTLDs, UDRP, ICANN, WIPO

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